Sunday, July 13, 2014
Bron-a-Mania is Back!: LeBron Heads Home and Turns Babyface
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)
For the second time in four years LeBron James has made an incredible basketball decision.
Back in 2010 it was joining forces with fellow stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to form the NBA's super friends in Miami, and now The King has put himself in position to reign even longer with a young and talent rich team in Cleveland.
Oh yeah, he's also going home, turning babyface again and all that other good stuff.
If joining the Heat was Bron Bron's nWo moment and heel turn, then his essay in Sports Illustrated is most certainly the basketball equivalent of the return of Hulkamania.
Sorry for the cheesy wrestling references, but the NBA has had a bit of a WWE feel to it lately, hasn't it? With free agency dominating Twitter and capturing America's attention far more than this past season's NBA Finals did, it seems there is more interest in what goes on behind the scenes than the action in the ring… Err, on the court.
So, naturally, when LeBron made his decision to return to Cleveland, the narrative wasn't about basketball- though we assume that will come later- it was about the "coming home" story line. James was the prodigal son that had gone to Miami, taken his lumps, learned how to win, and now he was returning to Cleveland a conquering hero, prepared to deliver a long-suffering fan base that elusive championship.
You've got to admit, it's a pretty damn good story. Vince McMahon should ever be so lucky to create a character and story that angers 90 percent of the population, thrills 10 percent of it, then slowly wins over the masses with "cool factor" and athletic brilliance, only to end with the flawed hero realizing the error in his ways and becoming a better man.
Oh, and let's not forget the appeal to those hard working folks in middle America, where nothing is given to you. LeBron is essentially Hogan, Stone Cold and The Rock rolled into one as a character, and the basketball-equal to Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair and Bret Hart in the ring.
Basically, he's the most intriguing super star the league has ever seen, and he has blazed the most unique and fascinating career path in American sports history. Plus, he's real good at the basketball.
Love him or hate him- and admit it, you love him now- LeBron is always on our minds and keyboards (usually in 140 characters or less).
Moving past LeBron and looking at the bigger picture, if you believe there is one, there is a great deal we can learn from "The Great Miami Basketball Experiment."
The first being that you don't have to build a team "the right way." Miami lucked into Wade in a loaded draft, then landed two other stars because it is incredibly attractive to free agents. The off the court reasons are plentiful- no state income tax, beach front property, vibrant nightlife, etc.- but the basketball reasons are sound too. Pat Riley is one of the NBA's greatest coaching and front office minds ever, plus coach Erik Spoelstra now has a championship pedigree, and has shown the ability to mix and match players of unique styles and abilities.
Can every team win like this? Absolutely not. You will need to be in a glamor market with some big guns making decisions, but there is no reason, other than general ineptitude, that the Lakers, Knicks, Nets, Mavericks, Clippers and several other franchises can't build a winner this way.
But, the other lesson we learned this past postseason is that depth matters. San Antonio had it, while Miami, who had invested heavily in its three stars, was forced to settle for players on rookie deals and veterans picked up off the scrap heap (Michael Beasley, seriously?). You can atone for this depth when your three central guys are all playing at a super star level, but when one dips, as Wade did in the Finals, there simply won't be enough help for the other two to defeat an elite team like the Spurs.
More than anything, the end of the "Big Three" era in Miami really showed how long four years in the NBA actually is:
-Long enough for Wade, Bosh and LeBron to go from hated and feared, to respected and cheered, to mocked and pitied.
-Long enough for LeBron to forgive the owner who acted like a slave owner that had just lost his greatest asset to the Underground Railroad.
-Long enough for Cleveland to acquire two apparently budding super stars in Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins. Of course, it helps when you win three of the four draft lotteries in that time span.
-Long enough for Wade to go from the league's best two-guard and folks questioning whether LeBron will take charge from him, all the way to Wade's career obituary being written after one bad playoff series.
There is so much more to be said about this whole situation, but I'm pretty sure everyone else on the internet has already said it/will say it soon on their Twitter. So I'll just end by saying I can't wait to see what this young Cavs team will look like around LeBron, and if they make that rumored move and grab Kevin Love, even more so.
LeBron could have returned to Miami and had a quicker route back to the Finals with a more experienced team, but there was really nowhere else for that story line to go. Like the nWo, LBJ's time in Miami had run its course, and it really would have been shoddy booking to continue it with no fresh stories to tell.
Just ask Eric Bischoff.